Two Swedish men accused of spying for Russia are on trial

STOCKHOLM — A trial began in Sweden on Friday in the case of two Iranian-born Swedish brothers accused of spying for Russia and its military intelligence service, the GRU, for a decade.

Peyman Kia, 42, and Payam Kia, 35, faced charges at the Stockholm District Court that they worked together to pass information to Russia between September 28, 2011 and September 20, 2021.

Between 2014 and 2015, Peyman Kia worked for the Swedish domestic intelligence agency, but also for the Swedish armed forces. Swedish prosecutors say the data passed to the Russians came from several authorities within Sweden’s security and intelligence service, known by its acronym SAPO.

According to Swedish media, Peyman Kia worked for the armed forces’ foreign defense intelligence agency, MUST in Swedish, and allegedly worked with a top-secret unit under MUST that dealt with Swedish spies abroad.

Intelligence expert Joakim von Braun told Swedish broadcaster SVT at the start of the trial that while many details remained unknown, it appeared to be one of the most damaging espionage cases in Sweden’s history, as the men had compiled a list of all SAPO employees.

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“That in itself is a big problem because Russian intelligence focuses on human resources,” von Braun said.

Peyman Kia was arrested in September 2021 and his brother in November 2021. Both of them denied that they had committed any kind of violation of the law, their lawyers told the court.

According to an indictment obtained by The Associated Press, 35-year-old Payam Kia was helping her brother and “dismantled and smashed a hard drive that was later found in a dumpster” when her brother was arrested.

Naturalized Swedish citizens can face up to life in prison if convicted.

In another case, Swedish authorities on Thursday released one of two people arrested this week on suspicion of spying against Sweden and another foreign power, but the released person remains a suspect.

Two were arrested on Tuesday during a pre-dawn operation in the Stockholm area. Authorities have released few details about the incident, but Swedish media cited witnesses who described being arrested by elite police officers from two Black Hawk helicopters.

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According to Swedish reports, the two were a couple and both Russians who came to Sweden in the late 1990s. The AP could not confirm these reports.

Swedish prosecutors said late Thursday that one of the two men had been released, but was still a suspect. He did not explain the reason for releasing one and detaining the other.

According to SAPO, the investigation had been ongoing for some time. According to the statement, one of the arrested is suspected of aggravated espionage against Sweden and “a foreign power”. Authorities have not identified the other country they allegedly spied on.

Swedish authorities said the incident was unrelated to other espionage cases.